Sam Feldt, Dutch DJ/Producer & label-boss of Heartfeldt Records, released his Home Sweet Home EP as a gift to his fans. We sat down with him to see what kept him busy last year during Covid-19. But we also talked about his upcoming plans. As you might know, Sam’s not just a DJ/producer, but he’s also an entrepreneur with an internet-based start-up called ‘Fangage’.
You just released your ‘Home Sweet Home’ EP, just like everybody else you also spend a lot more time at home then you supposed to. How was 2020 for you?
Good question. This year was supposed to be my best year with shows. My year started with a tour through Brazil and America. In March I heard I had to come back home because there was an unknown virus. At that moment nobody realized how serious it was. My agent told me: let’s rebook the shows for May. As we all know it took a little bit longer.
In March I Immediately decided to start my own label Heartfeldt Records. It took a lot of time and energy to get that right. I not only release my own records there but also from other artists. I think it’s really cool to have a platform not only for myself but also for other upcoming artists. It’s going well, we already have 27 releases and 100 million streams on Spotify.
I also spend a lot time on my own music this year, I just released an EP.
And my own internet start-up Fangage, we did a huge launch a month ago. That’s also doing really well. Without the touring, I got the time to focus on different projects and being an entrepreneur. The only thing I could do as an artist this year was to release and work on music.
During COVID-19 I did only 3 shows, 1 private party and 2 corona-proof parties. I hope we can visit a normal festival in 2021.
I hope so too. Are you positive about 2021?
Yes, I’m positive about 2021. If enough people are vaccinated, I can’t see why we can’t organize a festival. Most of the infections are inside and not outside in the open air. And maybe they can do some quick tests and that plus the vaccinations. I think we can start with events in the next couple of months. If everything goes as I’ve planned, I’ll have a busy summer.
You told us earlier that you started your own label in March, can you tell us more about what kind of music and artist you look for on your label?
It always has to be a good mix between electronic and pop. I always look for strong vocals and melodies, if it has the potential to do well on streaming of eventually radio. I call it ‘dance-pop’. When a song gets released on the label, I like it when it has that happy summer sound. But definitely, not all releases have to fit to my own sound.
You already have more than 100 million streams on your label. In a normal year, a song gets hyped at a festival or in a club. What did you do this year to make sure your songs get enough streams or exposure?
The advantage of my label is that we don’t have tracks that are only a good fit for clubs. We’re still doing well with streaming and radio. My own songs are firstly focused on having something my fans will enjoy listening to all day long, and most of the time I make a club edit of it. That’s the big difference with labels who usually release tracks focused on clubs and the big festivals. People are listening more than ever to Spotify. There are more platforms out there to attract listeners to your songs than just playing them at gigs.
You’re more an entrepreneur than an artist this year. When life gets back to normal, are there things you’re going to do differently?
Yes, I think so. For the past 6 six years, I had a full tour schedule, more than 150 shows a year. When you’re in that rollercoaster, you just keep going to the next show and the next one after that one. It was alright. But in April/May when I suddenly stood still it hit me both mentally as physically. Then I felt how much I had neglected my sleep and nutrition. I think that’s an important lesson, that there has to be a balance. I want nothing more than to be on stage again, but I have to be aware not to lose myself in it and do too much. I think for me that’s the big lesson.
Before the Coronavirus came about you heard more and more artist who were dealing with a burnout. I can imagine, that when you stop touring so suddenly it also can damage you mentally.
That’s right. The first few months it was nice to sleep well and enjoy better nutrition. But I feel it takes too long now. It’s not only my carrier it’s also my hobby. If I didn’t get paid to do this I still would do it. I knew I wanted to be an entertainer since I was eleven. I’m not able to do it for ten months now and that sucks. Touring is a way for me to clear my head, and I miss the impressions of the different cultures. Not touring isn’t only positive for my health
What do you do now to clear your mind?
I’m a person who loves to be social and be in the company of friends. Normally when I came back from a tour I love going out for diner. I’m used to that high energy lifestyle. Now I’m at home most of the time, and of course, I love to cook every now and then. It’s not that I’m depressed right now or something like that. It’s a huge difference and you can’t compare my normal lifestyle to this one right now. Just like you can’t compare a livestream to a normal show. I’m not only a DJ, because I like to play sets. The main reason I became a DJ, is because of the connection I can create with the audience. For me playing sets is the tool to get that connection. When you do a livestream, you can read the comments, but that’s it. It’s great that artists are doing livestreams and I do it too but it’s only to heal the wounds a little.
What kind of music do you listen to when you’re at home?
I don’t listen to my own music when I’m at home. When I release a song, I’ve probably heard it already thousands of times in 30 different versions. When you hear it for the first time, I’m already done with it. Not because I don’t like my own music, but because I heard it too much. At home I love to listen to jazz, soul, funk and piano music in the background. Music with a relaxing vibe that has nothing to do with dance. I always relate dance music to work, especially now I have my own label I always listen with a critical ear to dance music. Sometimes it’s nice to listen to music and just listen to it, with electronic music it’s harder for me to do that. I’m always trying to hear who made it and can I something with it, when I listen to a ‘70s jazz song I can just sit back and relax.
You often perform with your live-band. Can we say the music you’re listening to at home inspires you in your own work?
Yes, from the first song I’ve made, I looked for that connection between electronic and live, and organic sounds. I have a lot of records with saxophone, trumpet, piano and guitar. When you listening to my songs you always hear something that’s recorded live. In my opinion that crossover is super interesting. I’ve created a song with Shaggy do find that crossover between reggae and dance, I did a song with Akon for a crossover between dance and R&B. I always look for weird combinations. When you put two DJ’s together in the studio, you probably know what the outcome will be. When you put me with Shaggy in the studio and it can go a lot of different ways.
All the songs on your Home Sweet Home EP are collabs, how did you create the EP?
Those are all digital, Alma is from Sweden, Tabitha is Dutch of course and Polly is from Germany. One song was written 1,5 years ago and the other one more recent. It gave me a good feeling to release this EP. I can let the fans hear all the creativity I put in it. Like a Christmas present at the end of the year. But not with the intention that they had to become big hits or get played on the radio.
Do you feel inspired in these times?
I still feel inspired to write music or make songs. But the club part is completely gone now. I’m not inspired regarding the DJ part of it. A few weeks ago, I had to play a small set at a Dutch radio station and it didn’t go that well. When you’re on tour, you play 3 or 4 times a week. You’re all the time busy to look for new music and update your USB stick, now you don’t have any reason to do that. So, I’m a bit out of that part. When I play a set, I have to prepare a little more, I played a lot in the past so I’m sure it comes back quick. But music-wise everything is going well.
You have your own foundation the Heartfeldt foundation, can you tell us more about that?
Yes, it’s focused on a sustainable lifestyle. We started the foundation two years ago during Amsterdam Dance Event. We work with four focus points. Give, Do, Inspire and Empower. With Give we mean raising money, like 1% of all royalties from Heartfeldt Records goes to the foundation. With ADE last year we organized an event where we raised €35.000, -. With that money, we support projects both inside and outside the Netherlands. At the moment we focus more on local projects. The first reason we do that because it’s easier to control, the second one is because local projects are more of a trend nowadays, project like to protect trees or plant new ones.
Another focus point is to give a good example and make changes in your own lifestyle. For example, I removed all the plastic from my rider, changed my car to a hybrid and I made my home more sustainable. The focus point inspire is about in all the media attention you get to refer to the foundation. Like this now, I tell you about the foundation. I also post messages about the foundation on my Instagram stories. Empower is more the business part that we support brands who work sustainably. At the moment I’m in a conversation with a tea brand that cultivate their tea here in the Netherlands instead of somewhere else. So, you don’t have all those costs for logistics and pollution.
Do you have tips for people who are interested in a more sustainable lifestyle, but don’t know how to start?
It depends on your own lifestyle. If you travel just like me all over the world, then you have to start there because that’s your biggest problem. If you eat steak everyday then that is probably your biggest problem. You have a lot of tests online where you can make your own footprint. Based on that footprint I would start to see what the easiest things are to change and what has the biggest impact.
You’re also the owner of a tool/company called Fangage. How does it work?
It was born out of my own frustration. I had on different socials a million followers together. But I couldn’t reach them. If I posted something only a few percent of the followers saw it because of the algorithms of Facebook and Instagram. I worked hard to get those people to my platforms. They clicked and follow or like me because they want to know more about me. To find out that I can’t reach them if I have new music or a show nearby that is frustrated. For me because I can’t promote my stuff but also for the fans because they miss music from their favorite artist. Sometimes I got messages from angry fans because they didn’t know I played a show in their city.
So Fangage makes is possible for someone with fans to reach 100% of their fanbase. An artist can create a fan platform with Fangage and place their content at it. Fans can register to receive that content. It can be a backstage video or a podcast, actually everything around that artist. You create an online fan club and because the fans registered to receive that content, the artist can reach them. The fans get the good content they are looking or and the artist is capable to reach all their fans no matter what platform. It’s not smart to build your whole career on one platform that’s not yours. We have seen what happened to Hyves (for the Dutch people) and Myspace.
What is your own favorite tool on the Fangage platform?
It’s the total package. If you have the data from your fans you can do a lot with it. In the past, I used it a lot to promote my shows. For example, when I had a show in New York I send all my fans in New York a message ‘Hi, I just landed in New York, do you come visit my show tonight?’. And then I sold out my show, so that’s good for my relationship with the promotors. So, everybody is happy, the fans are glad that they can come to my show and I’m happy that I’ve sold the tickets.
Now that I can’t play any shows, I use it to upload content for the fans like my radio shows, you can already listen to it 3 days before it airs. Or you can listen to my records before you can listen to them on Spotify. This way I keep my fans involved and try to keep them engaged to my platform.
Do you think it harder to keep your fans involved without shows?
I think fans and artists realise that digital content the only thing that’s still available. If you don’t have a digital connection with your fans you don’t have any connection with your fans during Covid-19. You can’t see them face-to-face anymore. I hope artists and managers see the advantage of Fangage. You can reach them digitally and you have it all under control. It’s always possible that tomorrow Instagram decides to change their algorithm and your data there is worthless. That you need to pay to reach any of your fans.
We have one last question for you. We saw you appear in a trailer of Hydeout, can you tell us something about this concept?
Yes, that’s a festival I was supposed to play in Singapore. They decided to make that whole festival digital. It’s a huge decision but I think a good one. I play there with the band on the livestream, so that’s cool because I normally don’t play with them on a livestream. We hired a beautiful location. It’s going to be the biggest livestream I’ve ever done.
Thank you for your time. We hope to see you soon!
|CONNECT W/ SAM FELDT|